Learning Together

If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.  -Ram Dass

The afternoon sun is hanging low now that Autumn Equinox is upon us, making for some big shadows and, for me, a somewhat small sense of self. This week the in-laws were in town visiting, which made for one challenged yogi and excellent Ashtanga yoga research conditions.

The slow but deep (and sometimes loud) opening in my hips continued among some inner turmoil for me this week, complete with the profound release though the pelvis and sacrum that my practice at this stage is asking for. That, however, may have been the extent of my opening.

Just because the body is opening and strengthening does not necessarily mean that the mind and heart are flooding toward the divine…  

It has been much easier for me to learn to open my hips than to open my heart, to steady my handstand than to still my mind. Practice this week showed me very clearly the ‘closing’ sensations of fear and apprehension that can take siege of my heart and mind. This week, I am reminded that the seeds for some old negative patterns are still there. Those seeds sometimes look so big under the microscope of yoga practice.

Yoga practice is most interesting, inspiring and meaningful to me when it offers insight into the workings of the heart and mind. The process of revealing the light within, however, continues to involve working with some patterns that aren’t so ‘peacelovejoy.’

That’s really why I got into yoga, because of an ever-present feeling that there has got to be a better way to be. My ongoing choice of keeping a commitment to a yoga life is possible only when I feel the effects of self-awareness and insight into the meaning of life.

Times like now, when I feel so challenged by my own personality, when self-awareness means acknowledging some unpleasant inner qualities, the commitment to yoga and inquiry is both more difficult but perhaps more rewarding. As I understand Patanjali, the energy and vigor that yoga practice gives me can be applied to feeding painful, confused patterns (klesa), or can be used toward thinning those patterns and breaking free into the state of yoga.

Ashtanga can be a hot, fiery practice, and can aggravate frustration or negativity, especially in pitta types. If done with a sense of surrender and offering, I think, it can be deeply purifying and liberating.

As a stay-a-home Dad, now I have more motivation than ever for cleansing my mind and heart. I guess we are learning together.


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